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s/o teaching kids to speak up (airplane assault on girl)


marbel
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Before I read the post and news story about the 13-year-old girl abused on a plane, I never would have thought about my own daughter freezing up if such a thing happened to her.  We have had the typical talks about speaking up loudly, moving away, etc, if someone is bothering her. But I assume all parents do this and still young girls and women freeze up and can't react when assaulted.  I've always figured my daughter would speak up or otherwise react loudly, but after reading that thread, I am not so sure anymore.  She's never been "tested" so to speak.
 
Clearly the victim is not to blame for the assault, but (specifically in the case of the girl on the plane) it seems undeniable that if she'd been able to call for help immediately, she would not have had had to suffer for so long.   Even if the FA couldn't get to her right away, other passengers would know that something was going on - for example, assuming there was someone in the row across the aisle from the girl, that person could have let the creep know he was being watched until the girl could have been reseated. The person in the aisle seat ahead could have turned around.   
 
But how does one train a child not to freeze up, not to keep quiet in that circumstance?  To speak loudly and forcefully so she can be heard?  Because the training would have to make it an automatic response, overriding the person's automatic response of freezing, right?   But, how to do that?  You can't have sexual assault drills like fire drills. You can talk and talk, and the person may know in her head what to do, but how to train so her body does it? 
 
I'm using female pronouns because we're talking about a girl, but of course it could happen to a boy too.
 

Again, want to be clear, the girl is not to blame for not speaking up, but if she had been able to, the length of the assault would surely have been lessened because an adult would have intervened sooner.  Still traumatic, but perhaps less so?

 

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I don't know, but I'm interested to hear others' thoughts. I was raped in my bedroom by my high school boyfriend while my mother was home. I just went into shock. It never occurred to me to cry out. I told him no and tried to push him off of me, but I think I was too ashamed/embarrassed of it happening to call out. And while I don't recall conversations about what to do in such situations, I also don't think anything specific gave me the impression I should be embarrassed.

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No clue.  I guess I'm a bit baffled as to why some people don't speak up.  Maybe it's a personality thing.  Nobody taught me to speak up, but I did.  The times I didn't speak up were more about being taught to (excessively) respect authority.  For example, a teacher who constantly called students stupid.  It never occurred to me to speak up about that.  It's far more difficult when it is someone we are led to believe is always right, always the authority over us, or someone we trust because, for example, they are related to us.  But random strangers in a public place where all I'd have to do is yell around a bit?  I wouldn't have trouble with that, and I doubt my kids would either.

 

The far more difficult situation is as I said above. 

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I don't know, but I'm interested to hear others' thoughts. I was raped in my bedroom by my high school boyfriend while my mother was home. I just went into shock. It never occurred to me to cry out. I told him no and tried to push him off of me, but I think I was too ashamed/embarrassed of it happening to call out. And while I don't recall conversations about what to do in such situations, I also don't think anything specific gave me the impression I should be embarrassed.

 

I am sorry for what you went through.

 

There is actually a program called radKIDS that is absolutely fantastic at teaching how to speak up, how to get the attention to the problem, and what to do to protect yourself.  http://www.radkids.org/ I'd check to see if it's available in your area.

 

This looks interesting, thanks!

 

No clue.  I guess I'm a bit baffled as to why some people don't speak up.  Maybe it's a personality thing.  Nobody taught me to speak up, but I did.  The times I didn't speak up were more about being taught to (excessively) respect authority.  For example, a teacher who constantly called students stupid.  It never occurred to me to speak up about that.  It's far more difficult when it is someone we are led to believe is always right, always the authority over us, or someone we trust because, for example, they are related to us.  But random strangers in a public place where all I'd have to do is yell around a bit?  I wouldn't have trouble with that, and I doubt my kids would either.

 

The far more difficult situation is as I said above. 

 

I doubt I would particularly encourage my kids say something to a teacher who was being mean to kids in the classroom.  I think I'd encourage them to talk to me, so I could talk to the school principal. 

 

I see assault/molesting as different though.  It's an immediate danger sort of thing. 

 

As a very shy and timid kid, I don't know if I would have spoken up.  I honestly can't say what I would have done if someone had assaulted me that way. 

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I am sorry for what you went through.

 

 

This looks interesting, thanks!

 

 

I doubt I would particularly encourage my kids say something to a teacher who was being mean to kids in the classroom.  I think I'd encourage them to talk to me, so I could talk to the school principal. 

 

I see assault/molesting as different though.  It's an immediate danger sort of thing. 

 

As a very shy and timid kid, I don't know if I would have spoken up.  I honestly can't say what I would have done if someone had assaulted me that way. 

 

Oh no I wouldn't tell them to say something to the teacher, but I mean I didn't even tell my parents.  The teacher was regularly verbally abusive to some students.  Looking back I wish I had thought to tell someone.  It really was pretty terrible.  I just did not know.  I felt more like thank goodness this guy isn't picking on me, I must be doing the right things. 

 

I do think sometimes stuff happens and at that very moment we just don't have much time to think about what to do.  So we might not do much of anything.

 

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I actually did self-defense training with my oldest daughter this past summer. It was taught by an officer from the local police department, and he spent a lot of time focused on "trusting your gut" and not being afraid to fight back aggressively and make a lot of noise. He taught actual self-defense techniques and had the girls practice them, but his focus was strongly on not being afraid to yell out and fight back. It certainly left me with the impression that being too polite to make a scene and/or freezing up was his biggest concern. 

 

I know nothing is 100% sure to prevent someone from freezing up in an assault situation, but I felt like it was helpful for my (too polite) dd to have a big, male police officer repeat the message that it's okay to say no and to yell and fight and make a scene. And I felt like it was helpful for her to be forced to role-play those scenarios, in much the same way that I make my little boys practice calling 911.

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I'm not sure you can prevent someone from freezing. Even highly trained professionals occasionally freeze during an attack. Maybe self-defense classes? They're not fool-proof, but it can help people feel more self confident.

 

I agree with this.  You can do self-defense, role playing, etc and I think those are helpful - things that build body memory.  But I don't think that can prevent it 100% because there is a component that I don't think is controllable.  

 

When DD was younger and someone was semi-bullying her, we practiced using an "assertive" voice.  Things like that seem helpful.  Also screaming at the top of her lungs.  She liked that part.

Edited by goldberry
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My DD-13 flew solo days after this story hit the news. We discussed how she should handle this type of situation should it occur. DD already has a public demeanor she uses. Many are put off by her demeanor, but it protects her. It is not just on airplanes. It is everywhere a young girl/woman might go that she needs to pay attention to what is going on around her and say something. 

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I think it helps to have the tough conversations and talk through the consequences and when to believe or disbelieve threats.  For example, never believe a threat that someone will hurt your family.  They will be in jail and no one will be able to hurt them. Never let someone take you to a second location, because the only reason for that is to hurt you before they kill you.  If they are going to kill you anyway, might as well do it in public, in the first location where someone who loves you can find you.  Don't let them take you off, where you might never be seen again.

 

If someone's acting abusive and you can't stop it, the most important thing is to get help.  Immediately.  Scream and tell and report until you find an adult that believes you.

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I can understand freezing and keeping silent.  I think it is a very common reaction.

 

I agree with the idea of role playing loudly telling the guy off to get the attention of everyone around.  Like "DON'T TOUCH ME" and then "HELP" (as many times as necessary) if that doesn't work right away.  Bending the guy's fingers back or poking his eyes is fair game.

 

I don't know that I'd have the talk right before putting my kid on a plane.  I don't want my kids to think all men are pervs.  Just a general message that nobody has a right to touch you on or near your private areas, or anywhere if you don't want it, and you have every right to make a loud stink or use force to stop him if necessary.  This is a conversation I have with my kids from time to time - what they are allowed to do if someone bothers them - but we haven't done role playing recently.

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Honestly I think a lot of this is personality.  You can try/teach all you want but it is hard to overcome personality.  I was the kid molested on the bus repeatedly in middle school and I never said a word.  My parents raised me well IMO.  My older sister would have beat the living crap out of the guy.  We are different people.

 

PLEASE DO NOT QUOTE:  

I have two daughters.   My older one, despite having talked to her at length all of her life, I know was in great danger for the majority of her life if placed in the wrong situation.  My younger one I did not worry that much about.   Ironically, we recently found out that it was my son that potentially was in a situation ten years ago.  Fortunately he was not one of the victims.  With his personality, the abuser likely knew my son was not one to try to groom.  The abuser was a church leader AND detective, FWIW.  

PLEASE DO NOT QUOTE

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Speaking of books on self-defense, can anyone recommend some good ones?  I enrolled my dds in a Tae Kwon Do/self-defense class when they were much younger, and it was very good.  However, although we still discuss the topic, we haven't really done anything in depth lately.  I would love some book suggestions, and may also look into another self-defense course for them.

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Speaking of books on self-defense, can anyone recommend some good ones?  I enrolled my dds in a Tae Kwon Do/self-defense class when they were much younger, and it was very good.  However, although we still discuss the topic, we haven't really done anything in depth lately.  I would love some book suggestions, and may also look into another self-defense course for them.

 

 

Absolutely the best thing to read is Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker.

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One of the things that has been important for us is teaching DD that she does not have to consent to touch, by anyone, for any reason except for health.  And she should ALWAYS feel free to communicate about anything that happens.  

 

Our family has had trouble adjusting to these rules. They find it disrespectful if DD won't hug them goodbye.  She can't be rude, she must look at the person and say goodbye, but we are trying very hard for her to realize that she has control of her body, and she doesn't have to give that control to anyone else. 

 

The "no secrets" rule is also unpopular with the grandparents. We do not keep secrets in our house.  She'll argue with grandparents if they tell her not to tell us something (ie they gave her ice cream for lunch).  It also goes along with teaching her to tell, tell again. If something happens that makes her uncomfortable, we encourage her to tell an adult she trusts. If they don't help, she should keep telling trusted adults until someone can help her.  The unfortunate consequences is that right now, the telling is mostly about how she didn't like how it felt when daddy brushed her hair.  But we take her statements seriously, and acknowledge her feelings.

 

That's been our approach. Fingers crossed it works. 

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